Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement

Restorative Justice Programmes in Northern Ireland: Discussion

12:15 pm

Photo of Martin McAleeseMartin McAleese (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I welcome Mr. Maguire and Ms Watters and thank them for two impressive presentations.

They referred to their background. I want to emphasise both their backgrounds, on the one hand a republican one and on the other a loyalist one. It is a significant statement of where we are at in the peace process that they are working so closely together. I note that they have an ambition to grow together a little more over time. I wish them well as they try to fulfil the ambition of merging into one organisation for restorative justice practices in Northern Ireland. With that will come much more kudos in terms of increased leverage and access to funding, etc. In much the same way as Deputy Feighan mentioned the dinner on Friday night last in Belfast and the most recent gathering here of Members of the Assembly and of both Houses of the Oireachtas, we are seeing events that were inconceivable up until fairly recently, and that is a significant statement.

What is the role, if any, of the restorative justice concept in encouraging the private sector to invest in hard-to-reach communities or communities most affected by the Troubles and sectarian and paramilitary conflict and activity? The issues that the private sector would be concerned about are those that are well known to all of us - blackmail, extortion and safety of personnel. Ultimately, the investment to which I refer will bring jobs and self-esteem which are important as communities transform and become part of the future.

Ms Watters alluded to the role of ex-combatants in Northern Ireland Alternatives' practices. To what extent have they bought into and supported what Northern Ireland Alternatives has been doing? Are they actively engaged in the workings of the practices, particularly across interfaces? If that were to be the case, we are looking at persons, organisations and structures that were placed outside the criminal justice process now being associated with accredited elements of the criminal justice process, which the restorative justice concept is.


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